Falling birthrates: the threat and the dilemma

By Chrystia Freeland
December 7, 2012

Which is the more powerful agent of social change: fear or sympathy? Women in rich and middle-income countries may soon find themselves enrolled in a real-life experiment testing this proposition. That is because birthrates are dropping in much of the world. Demographics may soon rocket to the top of the political agenda, demanding an entirely new way of thinking about women and motherhood and the economy.

One reason for the shift was, as it were, born in the USA. That is because, for a long time, the United States has watched declining birthrates in places like Western Europe, Russia and even China with an air of superiority. The United States, lusty and fertile, was bucking the demographic trends.

Then, last week, new data showed that in 2011 the U.S. birthrate fell to the lowest level ever recorded: 63.2 babies per 1,000 women of childbearing age.

Crucially, immigrant women, whose fecundity had been holding up the U.S. figures, opted out of the maternity ward in the greatest numbers. According to analysis done by the Pew Research Center, the birthrate for women born in the United States fell by 6 percent between 2007 and 2010. For foreign-born women in the United States, the drop was 14 percent. Among Mexican immigrant women, the rate plunged 23 percent.

This is a big change for the United States, bringing the birthrate in the country more closely in line with those of the rest of the developed world. The total fertility rate in the United States, a measure of the total number of children the average woman is likely to have, was 1.89 in 2011.

A recent study led by Joel Kotkin for the Civil Service College of Singapore found that the U.S. rate was edging toward European numbers: 1.54 for Greece, 1.48 for Italy and 1.5 for Spain. In rich Asian countries, including Japan and Singapore, the rate has fallen even more sharply. Even in many middle-income and poor countries, the level has fallen below the replacement rate of 2.1 – to 1.89 in Vietnam and 1.9 in Brazil.

These figures, particularly the recent decline in the United States, have prompted a chorus of cultural lamentation.

Kotkin, for example, sees the falling birthrate as the central feature of what he calls “post-familialism,” a new form of social organization that prizes liberation, personal happiness and perhaps even a “hip” urban aesthetic over the more traditional values of community and self-sacrifice.

This cultural critique – made, not accidentally, mostly by men – misses the central fact about falling birthrates. They are, above all, driven by decisions by women. And, in the countries where we have seen birthrates drop, they are about decisions driven by women who face three defining facts.

First, women have the historically unprecedented power to control their own fertility.

Second, the old close-knit family and community ties that once supported child rearing have been severed by industrialization and urbanization, and not much has emerged to take their place.

Third, women’s economic circumstances have been transformed. Women in countries where birthrates have fallen tend to be richer than were previous generations with higher birthrates or their sisters in countries where the birthrate is still high. But that shift masks some other important characteristics in the life of the middle-class woman in middle- and high-income countries.

She is more likely than ever to work – and to need to work to maintain her family’s middle-class status. She is also more likely to live in a society in which a great deal of time and money must be invested in each child to ensure his or her future success. And, particularly in Europe and the United States, family income has probably stagnated or increased only marginally over the past decade, and certainly since the recent recession.

It is tempting, particularly if you happen to be an affluent man, to frame any choice about childbearing in the lofty language of moral philosophy, to see it as a decision between valuing personal fun in the present over service in the interests of others – one’s children and one’s society – in the future.

But the truth is that for most women, children are the most delightful and luxurious of consumer goods. (Full disclosure: I am the mother of three.) They are, however, expensive, both in terms of time and in terms of money, and more and more women in middle-income and upper-income societies are judging, with considerable sadness, that they simply cannot afford to have as many children as they would like.

This is where the question of fear versus sympathy comes in. For decades, feminists have been demanding that we come up with better ways for women to be both mothers and full members of modern society. That has often been dismissed as a “women’s issue.” So we have not addressed it – and now women are voting with their wombs.

Before long, we will collectively begin to appreciate that the future of our societies, and indeed of humanity itself, depends on finding a better, collective solution to this predicament.

42 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

True, the falling birthrate is most directly effected by decisions by women. But the environment fro those decisions is heavily effected by both men’s decisions and coming overdue changes in child support laws.

Economically, marriage today makes little sense to men. It is a large net burden with little attraction other than a sentimental social conservatism. The result is a falling marriage rate and, at the same time, a male income rate that decreases overall monthly, with no end in sight. As to children, currently the decision by a woman to bear a child is independent of the wishes of the father. Regardless of his involvement in the decision whether or not for the child to be born, he is held responsible for the financial support of the child. This separation of paternity from decision making will most certainly stop before long, and is already fading.

So the impact of deciding to have a child without regard for the wishes of the father is increasingly felt more heavily by the mother. Yes, this is an inevitable result of “family” fading as a social construct in the USA.

Posted by usagadfly | Report as abusive

I know Reuters will never allow this comment, but I would like to point out that your artice assumes a rising birthrate is a good thing.

Considering there are 7+ billion people on the earth now, I would argue we have exceeded the limited “carrying capacity” of the planet.

THAT is the real underlying reason for what environmentalists are constantly whining about — but are too cowardly or ignorant to point out what should be obvious.

The human race is about to breed itself into extinction, just as so many other species has in the past.

No, we are no different or more special than any other species that we are granted an exception to the rule.

“Those species who do not adapt, die”.

Nothing about life could be simpler, yet more complicated than that.

Posted by Gordon2352 | Report as abusive

Good article.
Another interesting factor worth investigating is the increasing life expectancy in rich and modern societies, and the relationship between this fact and the decreasing birth rate –
People live much longer, but they’re not necessarily productive in the last decades of their lives, and don’t contribute to the standard of living or wealth of families who support children.

Posted by reality-again | Report as abusive

Falling birthrates? Hasn’t this been acknowledged as a goal of demographic management for a long time? Lower population means less competition for resources. It also means more environmental sustainability. Even historically, one could cite the economic benefits of population reduction. The otherwise horrible black death is even cited nowadays as a transformative economic event, clearing way for consolidation of land, higher per capita consumption, a contribution to the emergence of capitalism etc.

Posted by TmcG180 | Report as abusive

“Kotkin, for example, sees the falling birthrate as the central feature of what he calls “post-familialism,” a new form of social organization that prizes liberation, personal happiness and perhaps even a “hip” urban aesthetic over the more traditional values of community and self-sacrifice.”

In other words Kotkin and his ilk do not recognize as valid any lifestyle that does not include the creating of traditional family unit in a suburb.

Posted by bluepanther | Report as abusive

Are the three defining facts articulated in this piece mutually exclusive from Kotkin’s post-familialism? Or can they reconciled?

Posted by dbjones | Report as abusive

I would really like to hear Hans Rosling’s opinion on this opinion. He has done several amazing Ted Talks on the subject.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

As a world we should strive for maintaining the birth rate, not declining it, and it should be nation by nation. In some third world nations, larger families to work the farm are still needed. But in any society, each person born is a potential asset, who may lead to the next great invention – be it moral, scientific, sociological, or whatever. Human life is chock full of potential. Maybe a specific life will work out, maybe not – but one will never know if the kids are not born.

Personally, I think that the birth rate has declined in the US because people do not feel that having children is beneficial. They are a lot of work, and our society has not respected motherhood. So why should women bother?

I do like the part about money – we agonized over the decision for my wife and I to have kids, worrying about how we could afford to support them through college. In the end we had two, which is all we felt we could afford.

Posted by stevedebi | Report as abusive

Given the challenges the world faces – global warming, environmental degradation, strain on resources, ever-worsening unemployment – most reasonable people welcome news of a stabilizing population.

But that’s not how economists think. Economists have never gotten over the seeming failure of Malthus’ theory about food shortages that never materialized, and have sworn to never again give credence to concerns about population growth. Mankind, they say, is clever enough to overcome any and all obstacles to further growth.

But the effects of ever-worsening overpopulation aren’t limited to stress on the environment and strain on resources. Because of their self-inflicted blindness to the consequences of overpopulation, economists have failed to recognize something even more insidious – something mankind is powerless to mitigate – the inverse relationship between population density and per capita consumption, and its role in driving global trade imbalances and in fueling unemployment. Instead, economists wring their hands over an “aging population” and the challenges that presents, as though growing the population further is a solution that’s sustainable and doesn’t make the challenge worse in the future. And our political leaders suspend common sense and follow the advice of their economists, stoking population growth with immigration anyplace where birth rates falter.

Even if man is clever enough to hold other obstacles at bay, worsening unemployment and poverty will ultimately prove to be our undoing.

Pete Murphy
Author, “Five Short Blasts”

Posted by Pete_Murphy | Report as abusive

“the U.S. birthrate fell to the lowest level ever recorded: 63.2 babies per 1,000 women of childbearing age.”

I had to look up the racial statistics on this. Here’s for teenagers age 15-19 birth rates per 1000.

white 21.8
black 47.4
hispanic 49.4

Politically correct or not, there’s the future.

Posted by LysanderTucker | Report as abusive

“It is not the consciousness of people that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness…”
AUTHOR KNOWN :)

p.s. I don’t see anything wrong with gay & lesbians folks, but in terms of birthrates…

Posted by UauS | Report as abusive

We must increase birth rates for all countries, so we can have massive unemployment, overpopulate the world, destroy the planet, and die of starvation and disease. Just as we must make the planet colder so we can all freeze to death in a man made ice age.
Where do these brainless fools come from?

Posted by americanguy | Report as abusive

An average american spends 50 times the amount of earth resources spent by an average Indian citizen. 20 million less americans means that the 1 billion Indians can double their consumption without adding to global environment degradation. The less Americans the better for the world.

Posted by WJL | Report as abusive

The World is choked with people – most living in abject misery.

Even at current headcount, governments do not have the resources to provide enough jobs, education, health care, clean water, fecal processing stations, food, etc. to make the slightest dent in this ocean of wretchedness.

Projections are for up to 10 billion people by 2050.

Isn’t the environment sufficiently degraded? Don’t we have enough poor and unemployed? How many more girls do we need with no prospects but prostitution?

Other than religious lunatics and blood-sucking capitalists, why on Earth would anybody want more people on the planet?

Posted by jrpardinas | Report as abusive

Fertility always drops in bad economic periods, and people put off marriage. We could use a lot more of it.

Posted by REMant | Report as abusive

I, like Gordon2352 and TmcG180, do not find this a troubling or surprising trend. The world is overpopulated and resource limited and the value of human life is somewhat perceived as proportional to scarcity, i.e., inverse to supply. Reduced birth rates are likely a natural response to overcrowding, resource limitations, and high reproductive success rates in developed nations. A response preferable to world war, epidemics, or leaping off cliffs like lemmings.

Reduced, sub-2.0, population growth is only troubling to those absurdly believing that economies and population growth can increase infinitely, and should always be increasing for prosperity. A philosophy that boils down to pyramid-scheme economics.

A sustainable and stable equilibrium is preferable for a happier and peaceful humanity, and we have long surpassed a sustainable world population.

Posted by ConstFundie | Report as abusive

“These figures, particularly the recent decline in the United States, have prompted a chorus of cultural lamentation. Kotkin, for example, sees the falling birthrate as…a new form of social organization that prizes liberation, personal happiness…over the more traditional values of community and self-sacrifice.”

Hello, anybody home? The people who came to this continent from the old world came for liberation from ways of life they found suffocating. “We, the people” place great value on our right to “…the pursuit of happiness”!

Just as the Industrial Revolution changed a lot of things, America changed from a rural “family farm” agrarian subsistence economy where each additional child was a labor asset to the family unit over the WW II period. Our postwar society has become a predominately urban and suburban one in which each additional child means a family’s income is divided by one more, leaving less for each family member.

How is it that economists don’t “get” that when children change from an economic advantage to an economic liability, that affects the desirability of children and that adversely affects the birth rate? As a society develops the means to limit or avoid childbirth entirely, and education and perception of “new choices” spread, an increasing number will “opt out” of large families or having families at all?
I happen to be that most fortunate of men, one who wanted (and found in the girl who became my wife) an intelligent and economically contributing partner in a life where she was the most important thing in mine, and I in hers. We had no children by choice, and wouldn’t change a thing. This coming year we will celebrate our 49th anniversary. The “family” without children can be as emotionally rich or even richer that the “family” with them.

You utterly miss the point that more and more couples in middle-income and upper-income societies are deciding that the hundreds of thousands of dollars that several children would divert from their bank accounts (from birth to financial self-sufficiency) is better spent on personal education, exploration or simply living at a slower pace with less financial pressures.

Gordon 2352 and I seldom agree, but his post here is “spot on”. TmcG180 also hits the nail on the head.

Ms. Freeland, a more responsible title should have been “Falling Birthrates: The Light at the end of the Tunnel?”

The present challenge is NOT to get everyone out trying to increase birth rates, but to figure out an economic system which harnesses individual originality and productivity in a way that “success” in life and retirement does NOT require more and more “worker bees”.

Does anyone doubt that robots of every shape and form will be the “worker bees” of the future. I’m not sure that having governments just print money and hand it out will produce a sustainable future economy, but the American Congress and White House seem well along on such an experiment!

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

Given the challenges of global warming, environmental degradation, the strain on resources and ever-worsening unemployment, most reasonable people today welcome news that we are beginning to stabilize our population.

But that’s not how economists think. They shudder at the prospect and wring their hands over an “aging population,” as though stoking population growth is actually a sustainable strategy to stave off the transient high costs of providing for the elderly without making the challenge that much worse in the future. Ever since the seeming failure of Malthus’ theory about food shortages that never materialized (yet), economists have been adamant in their refusal to ever again give credence to fears about overpopulation, claiming instead that man is ingenious enough to overcome any obstacles to further growth. For that reason, economists have failed to recognize the one obstacle that is, in fact, insurmountable – the inverse relationship between population density and per capita consumption.

The more crowded societies become, the more impaired are their abilities to utilize products. Per capita consumption declines. And, as per capita consumption goes, so too goes per capita employment – what the government calls the “labor force participation rate.” Unemployment and poverty rise. And overpopulated nations like Japan, Germany, China, Taiwan, Korea and a host of others become dependent on manufacturing for export and preying on the markets of less densely populated nations like the U.S.

But, thanks to their self-inflicted blindness, economists are unable to recognize this consequence of overpopulation. And, sadly, our political leaders suspend common sense and follow the advice of economists. They continue to encourage high birth rates and high rates of immigration to stoke population growth in a desperate bid to grow our way out of the very problems that such growth has created.

Pete Murphy
Author, “Five Short Blasts”

Posted by Pete_Murphy | Report as abusive

Good article Chrystia and for fun I’d like to point out another unintended consequence of births falling below replacement rates.

It means fewer future workers to support seniors with tax funded benefit programs. The recent caterwauling to “Make the rich pay with higher taxes” totally ignores the fact that where in 1950 16 workers supported 1 retiree, today it is 3 workers supporting 1 retiree and the gap continues to narrow.

Class envy aside, there aren’t enough rich people in the world to carve up so everyone can have a comfortable 20 year retirement. We’re going to have to work longer and accept smaller retirement benefits, it’s a mathematical certainty.

Posted by CaptnCrunch | Report as abusive

@ reality-again –

I am deeply disturbed by your comment that elderly people are not productive and don’t contribute to the standard of living or wealth of families who support children.

That is an extremely age-bias comment that should not be made.

I am retired, but my consumer spending has not changed dramatically since then. I still need shelter, food, clothing, medical care, entertainment, means of transportation, etc.

My property taxes on my home go mainly to support the school system, which DOES contribute directly to the standard of living or wealth of families with children.

What you are suggesting is that older people are somehow different than everyone else, which is untrue.

And when I die, my property will go to my children to support them. Thus, the natural cycle is continued.

That kind of attitude leads to places I don’t think this country wants to go.

If you want an example of people who contribute nothing to society, I suggest you take a look at the ever-increasing prison population instead.

A person’s life should have intrinsic value, regardless of their age, physical condition, or economic status in life.

Granted, that is the “ideal”, but one which is being seriously eroded by this society under the present economic circumstances.

If we continue to make the kinds of choices we are making now, we WILL come to regret them in the end, because it is a slippery slope that has the potential to destroy this country.

Posted by Gordon2352 | Report as abusive

Well, I’m glad this issue is at least being discussed. I guess with fertility it’s hard with middle class women to “keep them on the farm” instead of doing professional activities that society (and business) tends to respect more–and pay for. And unlike farming, you can’t grow kids hydroponically! :-) Anyway, professional and business class people of both genders seem to prefer to maintain or advance their socioeconomic status than risk it have another kid. What’s love after all compared to cash, class status, personal interests, and prestige? Working class women don’t have as much choice–since it is very hard to make ends meet at anything resembling middle class status even temporarily without two incomes for them. There’s many reasons for that, but the fact so many women compete with men in many workplaces and thus create a downward pressure on wages for everyone may be an under-appreciated factor. Part of a solution: respect motherhood, and encourage men culturally to value being fathers and providers.

By the way, TmcG180, the massive empirical evidence is that in the world in recent generations there is no correlation at all between rates of population growth and economic growth, positive or negative. Correlation, to be sure, not cause, but very suggestive nonetheless.

Posted by Dracontius | Report as abusive

I strongly agree with Gordon2352.

We have a severe overpopulation problem: should be ca 2 billion max, not 7 billion. We are the cause of climate change.

Where o/p probably leads is population collapse due to environmental overload. Happens all the time in other species.

China’s 1 child policy is the correct approach.

Posted by WalterL | Report as abusive

A great, thought-provoking article.

And, some of the comments are also thought-provoking.

This is why I keep coming back to Reuters.

Posted by AdamSmith | Report as abusive

It has been hard to take Ms. Freeland seriously after seeing her on Bill Maher’s show, nodding and grinning as two other guests expressed their deep desire to “hate f***” Rick Santorum and Sarah Palin. What would it take for her to walk off a show in disgust?

Posted by Paulbud | Report as abusive

People must learn to value the important, lasting things money can make possible like children not money or fading junk it can buy. That is true of women most of all since we want to take more care of children than jobs. The men must value their the role of their woman as mothers.

Posted by Samrch | Report as abusive

The fossil fuel industry is trying to tamp down political action to alleviate climate change and the Republican Party in the U.S. is passing laws to limit women’s access to abortion and contraception, encouraged in this effort by the Catholic hierarchy. It appears they are losing the fight.

Climate change is caused by human activity, therefore, fewer humans should be better for the planet. If support for the elderly and disabled is going to be a problem (which seems to be the main rationale for ever-increasing population), I suggest scrapping the Truman Doctrine making the U.S. the world’s policeman.

Posted by yooper | Report as abusive

The World is choked with people – most living in abject misery.

Even at current head count, governments do not have the resources to provide enough jobs, education, health care, clean water, untainted food, fecal processing stations, etc. to make the slightest dent in this ocean of wretchedness.

Projections are for up to 10 billion people by 2050.

Isn’t the environment already sufficiently degraded? Don’t we have enough poor and unemployed? How many more girls do we need who have nothing but prostitution for a career?

Other than religious lunatics and blood-sucking capitalists lusting for wage-slave labor, why would anybody want more people on the planet?

Posted by jrpardinas | Report as abusive

Lots to think about packed into a brief essay. Nice work! an interesting followup would be to examine the economic impact in the US in more detail. Taking as starting points, for example, the heightened importance of birth rates on a country heavily geared to consumption; or, the way that debt that is cyclical in an expanding population becomes structural in a shrinking one.

Posted by abb68 | Report as abusive

Completely subjective, personal observation but I think we’re actually devolving. Those who are educated are deciding to have fewer or no children, while those who are not educated (for whatever reason) are having the children. Many of those I’ve talked to have decided against bringing children in to this world because of the condition it’s in. “We can’t take care of what we have, so let’s not add to the problem”.

Posted by im4mary | Report as abusive

what if we focused on value added birthrate. Birthrates can ad positive impact citizens and dare i say drains on the country. If we fail as a country in raising the young ones we produce a per capita drain. Lower birth rates will earn a lower GDP which is highly dependent on the size of your population. Even a child that becomes a net drain on society still ads to GDP… just a thought.

Posted by bob_lob_law | Report as abusive

I am very happy to see alrady 2 comments covering what I wanted to say. I do hope this trend continues well into the future before we “eat away” all the resources on this planet

Posted by Albert8721 | Report as abusive

Stagnating incomes is driving the infertility.

In a generally prosperous society, it is possible to have an underclass with high fertility.

When income insecurity covers over 90% of the population, women opt out of child rearing and men opt out of everything.

There is nothing new or post feminist about it.

Posted by Dafydd | Report as abusive

After a house with big mortgage – the next big road to indebtedness seems to be having children. And the biggest of the potential causes of massive debt is the college education. The very status conscious are even paying more for private forms of education before the college years. It’s becoming a “poodle eats dog” world, even in China, to a lesser extent.

The standard American home – the most marketable – was the three-bedroom house: one bedroom for the parents and one each for two children. And all the sitcoms in the 50′s and even the 60′s were two or three child families. There was a stint of big family sitcoms in the 70s and maybe the 80s? Although I don’t watch them much anymore, I think they have returned to small family or no children situations.

Many Americans were really consciously, or not no consciously, breeding themselves at replacement rates. The birth rate may be dropping – not so much to preserve a sense of fun – as to be able to afford to live at all in ways most have grown accustomed to. And we live much longer too and that has an effect on the need to have replacements. In many ways there is no real need to have children because society don’t know what to do with them. They have almost become a luxury good and status symbol.

Two wage earner families have made it difficult, if not impossible, for anyone but the exceptional or well fixed,(sometimes in the same sense we “fix” dogs and cats) to breed or even provide a roof over their heads. Real estate prices have been milked for all they are worth – including the idea that all maintenance costs, including real estate taxes, can somehow be recouped when the house is sold.

American society is going the way of European society with older ages for marriage and approval for the well fixed to have children while at the same time despising the low income or unmarried “welfare mom” if they have too many children. But the housing stock does not encourage cross-generational living. Americans also seem to have invented the fashion that, somehow, each generation must be educated to “correct” the defects of the previous generation. The desire to attain a better standard of living with each generation also translated into a desire for each generation to make the previous one obsolete.

We have, in a way, made marriage not at all desirable. Human beings aren’t really better than our simian roots, but they don’t marry at all.

BTW – the well fixed depend on the masses of not so well fixed too, or their enormous incomes will vanish like the high priced real estate, derivatives and stock values their fortunes may be built on. This is a consumer economy that depends on masses of consumers. If the products and services could shop for themselves – the economy would be happy.

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive

“Before long, we will collectively begin to appreciate that the future of our societies, and indeed of humanity itself, depends on finding a better, collective solution to this predicament.”

I am just a lowly man. But, isn’t this a success and not a predicament? Wouldn’t actively interfering with this worldwide phenomena of lower birthrates actually undo historic progress of women’s rights?

Posted by M.C.McBride | Report as abusive

The future of humanity belongs to those that reproduce. Remember that.

Posted by moderate1234 | Report as abusive

Yes, falling birth rates, but we still have population growth (the rate is positive, not negative). You see, rate is the number of births per hundred people, which is still higher than the number of deaths per hundred people. However, to make up for the failures of our leaders and business community, we need faster growth, which eventually will lead to the destruction of the planet. But we’ll have a big party for a while. Whoo Hoo, play some Jimmy Buffett. “Wastin’ away in Margaritaville, searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt, some people claim there’s a women to blame, But I know, it’s my own damn fault”. That goes out to all you drunken frat boys in charge of our economic system. Way to go dudes, you totally scored big screwing the little people. Paaarteeee!!!!!!!! Burp!

Posted by brotherkenny4 | Report as abusive

People who work contribute to the money government depends on. So our governments work at cross-purposes when they promote birth control/abortion on demand and plan on greater numbers of people in the work force from which to derive taxes to fund their plans for the country. In this scenario, fewer people working produces less revenue requiring higher taxes on the balance of society. Eventually there will be nothing left for the workers remaining and people will demand government provide for them permanently. And that will be the end of America as we know it.

Posted by triumph900 | Report as abusive

On no mederate1234- those who reproduce, unless they are well cushioned with very large incomes, are now being seen as a threat to the methusalah set, as is always evident in the comments of one of those above.

The fecund are being seen as a perfect testing ground for new and improved weapons of not quite mass destruction. Mass destruction makes the job vanish too quickly. It is assumed the countries with a high birth rate will only make more.

This is not a world that believes in self sacrifice. Rather it believes others should make it and “we the better and more deserving” can watch and cluck over their limited means. And if the watchers are clever – they can sell the means to self immolation to the congested and under-developed while the economic cognoscenti can bet on the outcomes. How else can they produce their very precious, and very limited edition, bundles of joy?

Intelligence is the ability to obtain information and should not be confused with “smarts” or even cleverness. The intelligent can forget how dependent their brains are on their own better equipped environment and that is always very vulnerable and subject to decay and collapse.

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive

.

There is an easy solution.

The problem has two facets.

First is the problem of a depressed economy preventing people from forming families. This is the fault of those running the economy because they have failed at their jobs. It is preventing people from forming families and is a grave imposition.

Second is the problem of a diminishing pool of taxpayers paying for a growing pool of retirees drawing social benefits. This leads to pressure to reduce benefits and generational friction.

The policy solution is a Socially Positive Stimulus ( SPS ). In this case, the SPS would mean that a small amount of money would be given to each person who bore a child. That small amount would gradually grow until a healthy birthrate presented itself.

The benefit would also increase if the person giving birth was married and stayed that way – to encourage healthy families.

This has three very positive effects. First, it is a very strong short term stimulus as the money entered the economy and was spent raising the child. Second it is a very strong long term stimulus as that tax payer generates economic activity for the next 60 years. Third it increases the taxpayer pool and thus funds benefits for the retired.

Those who say we already have too many people are wrong. The technology is coming that will allow us to handle many billions more. The pollution issues are also technological failings that can and will be fixed.

This is the answer and it can be rationalized by both parties. It supports families and is pro life so the Republicans should be happy with it. The Democrats want a stimulus and this is a great one.

The first party with the guts to propose it will receive a huge amount of credit.

Thank you.

Avraam J. Dectis

Posted by AvraamJDectis | Report as abusive

A predicament for those who want more consumers to fuel the economy, pay taxes, work… surely.. but not for families who think it is the best option given the circumstances.

It is poor economic times and the USA had a huge drought and devastating weather. It is a wise family that decides it isn’t a good time to have babies or to opt out.

For the lady who was showing the racial divide over who was opting to have children, it is nothing new… Also the Hispanic family culture shares wealth and support the family and the community. I am not Mexican but would have opted to have more children were I from such a supportive culture…

What a great discussion, other than the political one and the guy selling a book…

Posted by youniquelikeme | Report as abusive

I think that the falling birthrate will prove to be beneficial both environmentally and economically, as it takes effect in more and more societies worldwide. If women can regulate their pregnancies to have fewer but healthier children, and preserve their own health to care for their children and families, surely that’s a good thing. It may be a rocky road in the short-to-mid term as our societies process the current bulge of aging people, but in the long run it will work out.

Posted by leslie20 | Report as abusive

Yes, leslie 12 and others

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive